Procrastination: The Thief of Time

4 Mar, 2010 || by

This is the second of a series of two articles that explore the dynamics of procrastination. In my last article, you learned what procrastination is and why people do it. In this article, you will learn how to change your procrastination behaviors and enable yourself to be more productive.

In the first article I explained that procrastination is caused by a number of factors including:  Avoiding discomfort; perfectionism; laziness; and thinking we’re not up to adequately completing a task.  I also explained that procrastination is self-reinforcing in two ways:  First, any activity we choose to become involved in other than the task we should do is usually more desirable to us; and second, if we get something done at the last minute and it’s good, we feel cocky about how well we did in such a short time; and if it turns out badly, we simply write it off by saying, “I didn’t have enough time to do a great job.”

Now let’s shift our attention to some things we can do to overcome procrastination.

Set Specific Goals

The most effective goals are specific, measurable, and achievable. An example of a good goal is, “I will buy paint on Friday and paint the living room on Saturday.” This is better than saying, “I am going to get the house ready to sell.”

Divide and Conquer

Sometimes a project is overwhelming if you think about all of the work that is involved. Do yourself a favor: Break the activity down into smaller steps and set progress goals for each of the steps. This is especially helpful when you are beginning a writing project, studying for a degree, or building a new set of skills.

Act First, Think Later

Rather than thinking about everything that needs to be done to accomplish a task, just dig in and do it.  Once started, the feelings of anxiety we experience when faced with a daunting task tend to lessen.

Don’t Just Talk About It, Do It

Make a verbal and written commitment to completing the task or project. Write a contract and sign it. Tell someone about your plans and ask them to follow up with you.

Focus On The Task, Not The Time

Rather than setting a goal of working in the yard for two hours, instead have the goal of working in the yard until the leaves are raked or a flower bed is cleaned.  Rather than setting an amount of time to work on writing a paper or a book, set a goal of completing a certain number of paragraphs or pages.  The same goes for studying; set a goal of the number of pages you’ll read rather than the amount of time you will read.  When we consider a task in terms of the work we want to get done, we tend to feel more in control of the task at hand.

Remind Yourself

Write notes to yourself and post them in conspicuous places. Leave them where you will see them—on places like the outside of your briefcase, the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, television, your front door, and the dashboard of your car. The more often you remind yourself of what you plan to accomplish, the more likely it is that you will follow through with action.

Reward Yourself

Reinforcement is a very effective way to motivate yourself. When you complete even the most minor task, be sure to acknowledge what you have done. This is especially important in the beginning when you are struggling with procrastination behaviors. After you have mastered these issues and have regained your peak productivity, don’t forget to celebrate the completion of the big projects. You worked hard for it and shouldn’t take it for granted.

On a final note, let me add a few words of proverbial wisdom. Proverbs are simply wise sayings that help teach lessons. There are many proverbs related to the topic of procrastination that I can remember hearing my parents (and others) quote while I was growing up, such as:

One step at a time

The first step is the hardest

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Slow and steady wins the race

The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

There’s no time like the present

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Action overcomes anxiety

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration

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One Response to “Procrastination: The Thief of Time”

  1. Destini Thompson-Pinder says:

    Procrastination is sometimes an occasional luxury but it can easily snowball into a lifestyle of underperformance and underachievement.

    “There is no substitute for hard work.” –Thomas Edison

    In the absence of doing those things that we need to do we are not getting where we need to be in life (i.e. safe, healthy, wealthy and happy).

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